When one thinks about zombies in video games, titles like Left 4 Dead, Zombie Apocalypse, Dead Island, and so forth come to mind. Even recently, Robert Kirkman’s zombie creation The Walking Dead has become interactive on gaming platforms. We rarely suspect the zombie-hunting protagonist to be a perky 18-year-old cheerleader, nor would we expect to decapitate a zombie and see rainbows. Thanks to Suda 51, it is now possible.
A cheerleader? Really? Whatever will they think of next?
You are the blonde, beautiful and busty Juliet Starling on her 18th birthday, the same day the zombie horde takes over San Romero High School – luckily, Juliet is late for school, not so lucky for her boyfriend, Nick, who you might recognise from the cover art (you know, the head dangling around her hip). The game unfolds as Juliet makes her way to school and begins her adventures kicking zombie ass with her trusty chainsaw, complete with heart cut-outs in the saw-mount. The introductory trip into school pits you up against a few zombies at a time and you’re prompted with the staples of combat; quick pompom attacks which can interrupt zombie actions and eventually stun them, slower but more powerful chainsaw attacks, jumping and various combinations of the three that can allow you to do things like sweep down at crawling torsos. It’s fairly unsophisticated at first which is a great way of introducing you to the bizarre, frantic and loud fun of fighting zombies, then as the game progresses other moves can be purchased to broaden your combat options. The role of a cheerleader is a fitting one as the agility suits the various combat moves she performs, for example Juliet leap-frogs over zombies to avoid incoming attacks or to initiate more powerful attacks like a chainsaw slice down the middle.
Lollipops serve as items you can collect and use to regenerate health, and later on other items become available that assist you in different ways. I won’t go too much into detail for unlocks as it’s such a crazy experience seeing them for yourself, even if you don’t use them. Some of them are worth using and seeing at least once just to see how silly they are.
You guide Juliet around from a 3rd person perspective with standard movement and camera controls, and early on in one of a fair few moments of breaking the 4th wall, she’ll tell you not to look up her skirt. Manoeuvring through levels is carried out this way, with mini-games and quick-time events to bring variety and absurdity to the game. Most of these are a good way of breaking up the often relentless combat, and while some of the quicktime events can be easily missed or failed at first, thank god I played Costume Quest to warm my reflexes for two-second notice button mashing.
There are three difficulty levels and while it’s a single player experience, there are global leaderboards to compare your scores for each level, as you’re graded on your performance including total time taken, continues utilised and combos used.
A quick word on graphics, Lollipop Chainsaw utilises the Unreal Engine and I found it to be quite smooth and the perfect choice for this style of game. It’s less about seeing splatters of liquid blood, and more about rendering glitter, stars and rainbows that explode from the zombies you hack apart, and it comes to together looking like zombie-hunting on acid – I won’t say any more on that topic, you’ll just have to play it. By its very nature, hacking apart zombies with a chainsaw is a violent and gruesome image, but the raging colour and brilliant soundtrack (I’ll get to that) really make it a humorous experience that has its tongue firmly in cheek.
Lollipop Chainsaw features an awesome punk/rock in-game soundtrack, as well as licenced tracks that are unlocked throughout the game. A great feature is being able to customise your gameplay soundtrack by selecting those songs. The soundtrack while you play can change from Joan Jett and the Black Hearts, Five Finger Death Punch, Children of Bodom to the all-time cheerleader anthem “Hey Mickey” by Toni Basil when you activate Juliet’s rage mode, awarded for collecting stars from defeated enemies. The music along with the visual style feels like a wonderful celebration of the 70s and onwards, combining with modern-day dialogue and pop-culture references. The voice acting is great, funny and relevant for a game of this nature.
Lollipop Chainsaw will be regarded as one of my favourite games to date. It’s loud, fast, and often chaotic in a really absurd way, and it’s not at all to be taken seriously. It takes a generous sense of humour and an appreciation for the pop-culture on show to enjoy it, and I really did. To show you a little bit of the absurdity, here’s some zombie baseball gameplay that I recorded just for you.
Thank you One Green Bean for providing Drop Bear Gaming with a review copy of Lollipop Chainsaw.
Plenty of zombies were harmed in the making of this video game review.